What are cross-functional teams and how do you build one?

What are cross-functional teams and how do you build one?

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Cross-functional teams in IT are groups that bring together professionals with different expertise and skills to work towards a common goal.

These teams typically include members from various departments such as software development, quality assurance, IT operations, product management, and user experience design.

The diversity in skills and perspectives is expected to enable the team to tackle complex projects more effectively than teams composed of members with similar backgrounds.

In this article, we take a look at the benefits of cross functional teams, how to build one, the challenges and how to overcome them, as well as what to consider if you’re planning to outsource roles within a cross-functional team.

The value of cross-functional teams in IT

Cross-functional teams in IT combine people with different skills and experiences, and theoretically, this can lead to several benefits:

Better collaboration and innovation

Cross-functional teams bring together people with different skills and experiences. This mix promotes sharing of ideas and knowledge.

When a software developer explains a technical challenge to a product manager or a quality assurance specialist, they get to see the issue in a new way. This conversation can lead to creative solutions that wouldn’t have come up if everyone had the same background.

For example, a designer might suggest a user interface change that simplifies development and enhances user experience, showing how collaboration directly contributes to innovation.

Higher efficiency

In a cross-functional team, members work on various parts of a project at the same time.

Doing tasks at the same time speeds up the team. While some members code the software, others test it or get the server ready. This way, there’s less waiting and the project moves faster.

Efficiency gains are especially noticeable in projects with tight deadlines or when unexpected challenges arise, as the team can quickly reassign tasks to address the most pressing issues.

Improved product quality

Cross-functional teams examine products from multiple angles. A developer focuses on functionality, a designer on user experience, and a quality assurance specialist on reliability.

This multidisciplinary review can help validate that the product meets high standards in mltiple aspects. The team can spot and fix problems early in the development process, saving time and resources.

For instance, catching a usability issue during the design phase is much less costly than making changes after the product has been built.

Better risk management

Diverse teams are better at predicting and managing risks. Each team member views the project through the lens of their expertise, allowing the team to identify potential issues early.

A project manager or team leader might notice a scheduling risk, while a technical lead might spot a potential integration problem. This early detection allows the team to devise strategies to mitigate risks before they become serious problems.

Effective risk management is needed for maintaining project timelines and budgets, and cross-functional teams excel in this area.

Example of a cross-functional IT team

To illustrate what a cross-functional team looks like, let’s imagine that a software development company is launching a new mobile application. The application aims to improve customer engagement through personalized experiences.

This specific project requires effective cross-functional collaboration to ensure its success from conception to launch.

Here’s how the team could be structured:

  • Project manager: Oversees the project, ensuring that all departments work together smoothly towards the common goal. They facilitate communication, resolve conflicts, and keep the project on track.

  • Software developers: Responsible for building the application’s core functionality. They work with other team members to build software that meets all technical requirements and user expectations.

  • Quality assurance (QA) specialists: Focus on testing the application for bugs and ensuring that it meets the company’s quality standards. They provide feedback to developers for improvements and ensure that the final product is reliable.

  • UI/UX designers: Design the application’s interface and user experience. They ensure the app is intuitive and easy to use, focusing on creating a positive user experience.

  • Marketing team: Develops and implements strategies to promote the app to the target audience. They work on branding, messaging, and launch campaigns to generate interest and drive downloads.

  • Customer service representatives: Provide insights into customer needs and feedback. They are involved in the early stages to ensure the app addresses common customer issues and continues to gather user feedback after launch for future updates.

Building a cross-functional team 

Cross-functional teams consist of members from diverse backgrounds and specialties.

A common mistake when creating these teams is not thinking about how each person’s skills can help meet the team’s goals. Sometimes, in cross-functional projects, people from different departments are just put together without a plan, which can lead to not making the most of everyone’s abilities, team members feeling frustrated, and missing out on innovative ideas.

To build an effective cross-functional team that works well together and makes the most of everyone’s strengths, try this approach:

  1. Figure out what you want to achieve: Start by being clear about the project’s goals. Knowing what you’re aiming for helps you pick the right people for the team.

  2. Look at what everyone is good at: Check out the skills and strengths of potential team members. Think about their technical skills and also how well they solve problems, communicate, and adapt to changes.

  3. Put the right skills in the right places: Make sure each person’s skills match what the project needs. Everyone should have a clear role that fits with achieving the project’s goals.

  4. Be clear about who does what: Once you’ve chosen your team, clearly define everyone’s jobs. This helps avoid confusion and makes sure all parts of the project are covered.

  5. Keep everyone talking: Encourage team members to talk to each other regularly. Good communication helps with the sharing of ideas, solving problems, and keeping the project moving.

  6. Help the team grow: Offer training to fill any gaps in skills and make sure everyone has what they need to do their job well.

  7. Check in and adjust if needed: Keep an eye on how things are going and be ready to make changes. This might mean changing roles, offering more support, or adding new members to the team.

Challenges and solutions

Cross-functional teams can make projects much better but might run into problems. Knowing these issues and how to solve them is key to good team collaboration and success.

Communication barriers

When team members come from different departments, they often use different jargon and have varying approaches to work. This diversity can cause confusion and misunderstandings.

Imagine in a project to enhance software performance, the data science team talks about “model optimization” while the software engineering team uses “performance tuning.”

Both teams are focused on improving the platform’s performance but can struggle to understand each other’s contributions and needs due to the differing terminologies.

Solution: Organize workshops and team-building exercises that focus on effective communication. These activities should encourage team members to share their work processes and terminology. Additionally, implementing effective project management tools can help standardize communication and ensure everyone understands project updates and tasks.

Conflicting priorities

In cross-functional teams, members often have different priorities. For example, in a software development project, developers might focus on adding features, while the marketing team wants an early launch, and the quality assurance team emphasizes thorough testing.

These differing priorities can cause disagreements.

Solution: Create a unified project plan that includes input from all departments involved. This plan should outline the project’s main objectives and how each team member contributes to these goals. Regular meetings to review progress and adjust priorities can help keep the team aligned and focused on common objectives.

Resistance to change

Adapting to a new way of working can be difficult for some team members, especially if they are used to operating within the confines of their department. Resistance to change can slow down the integration process and affect team morale.

Solution: Clearly communicate the advantages of cross-functional collaboration, such as faster problem-solving, more innovative solutions, and personal growth opportunities. Offer training sessions to develop new skills and facilitate smoother transitions into the team. Recognizing and celebrating small wins can also help build confidence in the new approach.

Engaging with external IT consultants in a cross-functional team

When integrating external IT consultants into a cross-functional team, the process requires careful consideration to ensure they complement the existing team dynamics and contribute effectively to the project goals.

Here’s an approach on how to determine the need, hire, and what to look for in external IT consultants:

Determining the need for external IT consultants

  1. Skill gaps: Assess the current team’s capabilities to identify any skill gaps or areas where additional expertise is required. External consultants can fill these gaps, bringing in specialized knowledge that the in-house team lacks.

  2. Project scope and complexity: For projects with a high level of complexity or those that require a skill set not present within your organization, bringing in external consultants can provide the necessary expertise to navigate these challenges successfully.

  3. Deadline constraints: If the project timeline is tight and the current team cannot meet the deadlines without compromising quality, external consultants can provide the additional manpower and expertise to keep the project on track.

Hiring external IT consultants

  1. Define specific roles and expectations: Clearly outline what roles the external consultants will play within the cross-functional team. Define their responsibilities, deliverables, and the standards by which their performance will be measured.

  2. Look for relevant experience: Choose consultants who have a proven track record in similar projects or industries. Their experience can bring valuable insights and best practices to your project.

  3. Assess cultural fit: Ensure the consultants can integrate well with your team’s culture and work style. A good cultural fit is crucial for smooth collaboration and communication.

  4. Check references and past work: Speak with previous clients and review the consultants’ past work to gauge their effectiveness and reliability. This can also provide insights into their ability to work within cross-functional teams.

Integrating external consultants into the team

  1. Onboarding and knowledge sharing: Conduct a thorough onboarding process to familiarize the consultants with the project goals, team dynamics, and organizational culture. Encourage knowledge sharing between the consultants and in-house team members to foster mutual learning.

  2. Clear communication channels: Establish clear lines of communication. Define who the consultants should report to and how information will be shared across the team. This helps in maintaining transparency and ensuring that everyone is on the same page.

  3. Regular check-ins and feedback: Schedule regular meetings to discuss progress, address any challenges, and provide feedback. This ongoing dialogue ensures that the consultants are aligned with the project objectives and integrated into the team’s workflow.


Looking for external experts for your cross-functional project?

If you decide to engage with external experts for your cross-functional team, you’ll need to carefully choose the right consultant. You need team members with deep technical skills who can also work well together and align their efforts with the project’s goals.

The focus is on finding people with specialized knowledge who are great at teamwork, and ready to create and implement effective solutions.

We specialize in connecting organizations with IT consultants, including any role for cross-functional projects. Our selection process is designed to match you with professionals who have the technical ability and strategic approach your project requires.

Choosing us brings several benefits:

  • Quick matching: We efficiently connect you with the best experts for your project, saving you time and a whole lot of hard work.

  • Access to top talent: Work with professionals who have a solid track record in their specialties and have contributed to successful projects.

  • Customized service: We recognize every project has unique challenges. We find experts who understand your specific needs and can craft solutions just for you.

Contact us to find the experts your cross-functional team needs.


Cross-functional IT teams are effective for complex projects, sparking innovation, and enhancing product quality. Choosing the right team members, encouraging teamwork, and tackling problems head-on allow hiring managers to form capable teams ready to reach their objectives. The strength of a cross-functional team depends on the diversity of its members and their ability to collaborate towards a shared goal.